Originally Published in the Australian Broadcasting Corportation
by Tayyib Rashid
In 1987, 30 years ago, I emigrated to the United States from Pakistan, the land of my birth. A short time later, I became a naturalized citizen.
In January 1997, almost 20 years ago to the day, I left for boot camp. I spent the next twelve weeks fully immersed in the training to become a United States Marine.
Known simply at the time as “recruit Rashid,” I had no other identity – but was rather just one of many recruits who aspired to be a part of among the most elite of brotherhoods; a brotherhood that did not differentiate between race, colour, creed, or origin.
It was a brotherhood that reflected America’s strength – its diversity and inclusiveness.
This week we learned the shocking news that Donald Trump has taken the first steps to weaken America’s strength by banning immigration from certain Muslim-majority countries. It is significant to note that America has never suffered a terrorist attack from any of the banned countries.
Meanwhile, nations that have attacked us remain undeterred, but simply happen to have businesses belonging to Trump.
Indeed, it is unfathomable that such a step is taken under the guise of security by someone who exploited every opportunity to avoid serving in the armed forces to defend this nation. In his youth President Trump received a total of five deferments for medical reasons that were supposedly serious enough to prevent him from serving in the military, but not serious enough to prevent him from excelling in Collegiate level football.
Not only is this Muslim ban an irresponsible step which does damage to American diversity, it reflects the hateful and harmful rhetoric of bigots and Islamophobes. The ban ignores far more violent and far closer Christian majority nations like Honduras – which leads the world’s murder rate per capita index. Why?
The answer is clear. This executive order to ban Muslim refugees has very little to do with America’s security and much more to do with prejudice that seeks to divide rather than unite. Such action seeks to blame rather than foster dialogue and understanding between people.
But perhaps most concerning is that such a measure screams the lie that “Islam hates America and America hates Islam.” This lie weakens American security because it plays right into the hands of terrorists who use it as propaganda to recruit more sympathisers to their cause.
I chose to serve my country because Islam teaches me the importance of loyalty to one’s nation. The U.S. military is strong because citizens and immigrants alike choose to serve her and defend her Constitution against all enemies – foreign and domestic. It is for this reason that I still choose to honour the oath I took 20 years ago. This includes choosing to resist hate in favour of love and understanding. I choose to reject bigotry and prejudice in favour of dialogue and acceptance.
And I invite others to join me and choose to discard ignorance in favour of education and compassion. America’s ignorance concerning Islam has served as a driving force to promote fear of Islam and Muslims. Let’s work together to counter that ignorance with education. Trump spoke extensively about patriotism in his inauguration speech. A true patriot, according to Islam, doesn’t put himself before others, but others before himself. He upholds education and justice in all matters.
Accordingly, I invite all true patriots to stand with me, a U.S. Marine who happens also to be an American Muslim, by signing up as a #MuslimAlly. The True Islam education campaign is our effort to champion education and compassion in the face of hate and fear.
Join me to fight the good fight through peaceful means – to fight the true Jihad by educating each other and understanding one another. The oath I took 20 years ago was not just a temporary agreement, but a life-long commitment. I’ve proudly stood with and defended America as a U.S. Marine the majority of my life. Now I ask my fellow Americans stand with me as a #MuslimAlly.